Jaguar’s Mitch Evans will start today’s Santiago E-Prix in Chile from pole position, having dominating an eventful qualifying session on Saturday afternoon.
It’s the second weekend of the 2019-2020 ABB FIA Formula E championship, following wins for Virgin’s Sam Bird and Andretti’s Alexander Sims in last month’s double-header held in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
Porsche’s André Lotterer had been the first man out on track in qualifying, and he was able to go second fastest in the group behind Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne despite being the designated ‘track sweeper’ for the session.
Bird and Sims were both off the pace, while Lucas di Grassi ran wide and came to a brief halt in turn 9 on his flying lap after Nissan’s Oliver Rowland ran into the barrier on his full power lap.
In the second group, Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara went fastest of anyone so far despite having to find his way past Robin Frijns who went for a full 360 degree spin at turn 1 in the Virgin. Nyck de Vries was second quickest for Mercedes ahead of reigning champion Jean-Éric Vergne, with the top three all within one tenth of each other.
Group three was dominated by Evans, the evolving street circuit allowing him to find a whopping six tenths over Mortara with his lap of 1:04.941s. The Swiss driver’s earlier time was also beaten by Andretti’s Max Guenther and by the Mahindra of Pascal Wehrlein, whose team mate Jérôme d’Ambrosio suffered a sudden gearbox issue through the final corner of his push lap.
The honours in the final group were clinched by Nissan’s Sébastien Buemi, with Felipe Massa second for Venturi and Nio’s Oliver Turvey a surprise third fastest. All three were quicker than Mortara, which meant that the group two pacesetter finished seventh overall and narrowly failed to make it through to the final superpole shootout.
That left Wehrlein as the first of the six drivers to go again to complete for the top three rows. His time of 1:05.645s was a little over a tenth slower than his group stage effort but still to the good by 0.143s over Turvey’s effort that followed.
Next up was Massa, who was able to control a dangerous touch of oversteer in the middle sector to avert disaster and match Wehrlein’s time to the thousandth of a second. Buemi also struggled for grip on his lap, and as a result ended up bottom of the pile at the end of his effort.
Guenther was the last-man-but-one to set a time, and it was a full half second clear of the rest of the field to take provisional pole, with just Evans still to go. The Kiwi was more than up to the task, his time of 1:04.827s shaving almost another three tenths off the previous leading superpole time.
It means Evans and Guenther will line up on the front row ahead of Wehrlein and Massa, followed by Turvey and Buemi. Alongside Mortara will be de Vries, with Vandoorne and DS Techeetah’s António Félix da Costa rounding out the top ten.
Vergne just misses out in 11th, with Porsche’s Neel Jani in 12th followed by Audi’s Daniel Abt. Lotterar, Sims and Bird are next up followed by Brendon Hartley, James Caldo and Nico Muller. Those drivers who hit problems in the group stage – d’Ambrosio, Frijns, Rowland and di Grassi – take positions 20 through 23.
Earlier in the day, Bird’s best lap of 1:04.914s had topped the first 45-minute free practice by 0.150s from da Costa, with Mortara third quickest. The session saw a brief scare for Sims who came to a halt early on with a suspected recurrence of Friday’s battery issues, but a simple reboot fixed the problem. Later in the session there was contact between Rowland and Gunther.
The shorter 30-minute second practice saw Rowland claim the session honours with a time of 1:04.799s putting him 0.131s ahead of Felipe Massa in the second Venturi, with Evans third. Bird was only 22nd fastest on this occasion. There were two red flags disrupting this latter session, the first of which were due to cooling fans being left on Hartley’s GEOX Dragon which later fell off onto the track at turn 1.
The second red flag had been for NIO 333’s Ma Qinghua hitting the wall at turn 5 having lost the rear under braking, after which the session did not resume. The team was not able to repair the car in time for him to take part in qualifying.
Qinghua should still be able to line-up at the back of the grid for the race itself, which is scheduled to get underway at 4pm local time, or 7pm GMT.